Copland and Ives, a Comparison

Upon first listening to Copland’s Hoedown, I felt a sudden hunger for beef rise up within me. After all, it’s what’s for dinner. This piece has been forever attached to those commercials, for good reason. It was most likely chosen as the “beef theme” for its wonderful, catchy melody, which is neither simple nor overly-emotional. The rhythm is quick throughout, with only one short, calm break stuck in the middle.

A wide range of percussion instruments are successfully intertwined within the piece, such as the lone xylophone within numerous strings during the main melody. The constant fight between brass and strings quickens the pace until the melody changes and the piece takes a short nap. This is quickly followed by an explosion of the original melody, brought to new heights with the help of more percussion (the triangle and drums in particular). Overall, this is a very lively, exciting piece that definitely needs to be heard in its entirety, as opposed to the usual 30 second bits that everyone knows.

Ives’s Putnam’s Camp contrasts greatly with the piece by Copeland. It begins very explosive, with something that might be considered a steady rhythm, but quickly breaks away into something completely wild and different. Unlike Copeland’s catchy, syncopated rhythms, Ives’s piece involves constant changes in rhythm and melody, often with different parts of the orchestra playing different segments that don’t sound pleasing together. This would definitely not be featured in any commercial for any kind of meat. Fierce drums and brass accent nearly every measure, and collide with other sections. There is no noticeable buildup or gradual changes in loudness. Rather, loud parts usually stay loud or get louder, and some soft parts are randomly thrown in and unexpected.

Overall, the piece lacks any memorable melody or catchy rhythms. If I had seen this live, I probably would’ve forgotten everything within minutes of its completion. Small bits of melody near the beginning are quickly destroyed, and replaced with noise. Individual rhythms interfere with each other and in the end the experience is painful but easily forgotten. Apparently, Ives’s piece is about the Revolutionary War, and a camp in Danbury. The interfering melodies and rhythms can be seen as different groups of people (civilians, army, etc) and their lives during war. Knowing this information, the piece seems less painful and more interesting.

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